TRANSFIGURATION : FEAST APPROACHES AS WE LOOK BACK
|St.STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL BRISBANE|
As the great Feast of the Transfiguration approaches on next Tuesday, I was reminded of just how much some things have progressed. Indeed in Brisbane the transformation is on-going and remarkable, under the combined influence of Archbishop Mark Coleridge, numbers of new young orthodox clergy and numbers of outstanding Nigerian Clergy and Seminarians, and remarkable lay movements like Frassati Ministries.
But in 2001, Brisbane was in sorry shape. And the Homily of a Senior Priest delivered in the Cathedral, led me to pen this letter to him :
"11 MARCH, 2001
Reverend & Dear Father
YOUR SERMON - THE TRANSFIGURATION
SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT
On numerous occasions I have complimented you on fine sermons. You will I trust, therefore understand that the occasion might arise when I believe I must do the opposite.
Last year, on the same Sunday, my wife and I heard you preach on the same text. We took serious exception to what you said in part, but since the point was not laboured and would have passed many folk by, we remained silent. I did manage to offer you some weeks later, without the need for direct reference to the cause, the relevant extracts from Fr.Toal's SUNDAY SERMONS OF THE GREAT FATHERS.
To-day you returned to your approach to the Transfiguration expanding on the points we find to be in error at some length, to our considerable distress.The substantial errors which formed the basis of your preaching were:
(a) speaking of "Christ"/ "Jesus"praying to "God"as if He and God were not one and the same;
(b) referring to Christ doubting the correctness of what He was doing;
(c) referring to the Transfiguration as "God's" "encouragement" to Christ to "reassure Him", etc.
That this is wholly contrary to Catholic Teaching, Tradition and authentic commentary should not require stating. Indeed in your own reading of the Divine Office for the day, you could not have avoided the usual authentic teaching of Pope St.Leo the Great clearly spelling out the truth - quite contrary to your statements.
1. Our Divine Lord did not pray to some "other"Being "God". He prayed to His Father within the undivided co-equal Trinity. To speak of Christ praying to "God"smacks of the error spreading uncorrected in the Archdiocese which suggests in its milder form that Jesus did not know He was God until very late in His Life ( apparently exponents of this view envisage some error in the course of a type of "beaming down"procedure. In its more robust form, it is suggested that He "became" God late in His life. Both ideas are of course heresy. The former is a ridiculous illogicality : "God. but He didn't know it". The latter would hold as a lie the whole of the Gospels from the Annunciation onward. All of this without even considering the implication that the God Who knew the prophet "Before you were in the womb", could not know Himself when incarnate.
2. To suggest that Christ "doubted"the correctness of His actions is a denial of His Divine omniscience and totally ignores the whole of the Gospel story. The Gospels show Jesus from at least age 12 onward always knowing His role, knowing what others are thinking or will do, what is going to happen to Him and to others. He Himself makes the position clear when He foretells His Passion and Death and later makes it clear to Pilate that he would have no power over Him if He had not given it. He is always the Master of events and men. What nonsense Father and false teaching to even suggest that God made man doubted Himself.
3, Again , your reference to the Transfiguration as "God's""encouragement"to "Christ"when things were going badly for Him is false and based on the above two errors.
The plain truth and constant teaching of the Early Church Fathers and the Church ever since is that the Transfiguration was for the benefit of the Disciples( and in a different way the prophets) - not for the "benefit"of Our Divine Lord. It did not give Him ( the Creator of the Universe) "heart". Rather He, through the Transfiguration, gave the disciples heart. ( As for the prophets, we do know as St.Luke tells us that they spoke to Jesus about His coming death.)
This is so obvious, so constantly and authoritatively taught for 2,000 years that one is dumbfounded(almost!) in the face of your preaching.
These are very serious matters touching on the Divinity of Christ. Such errors cannot be allowed to pass. The scandal given to such a large congregation is too great, especially from one holding such responsible positions as you do.
I have a good regard for you Father, especially for your love of the Sacred Liturgy. But I cannot in conscience do other than follow this matter to a conclusion.
I would welcome you response.
in Our Lord
There was no written response.A couple of weeks later the Priest said to me after Sunday Mass, looking rather uncomfortable : "About your letter.....we..must talk." It did not happen. Then again the idiocy was not repeated in subsequent years. In fact after one such occasion a passing call came from him after Mass : "How did you like that? Pope Saint Leo the Great!""
Subsequent to writing the letter I could have kicked myself when I realised I had neglected to draw attention to the Preface of the day as well which underlines the Truth and gave the lie to his preaching, Ah, well - all's well that ends well.
Yes indeed, we have come a long way - Deo Gratias!